NGPF Activity: Failure is Part of the Entrepreneurial Journey

Sep 12, 2018
Entrepreneurship, Activities

Spielberg, Disney, Einstein, Edison and J.K. Rowling. See if you can match up these wildly successful people with their early failures (answers at bottom of post):

a. Was a broke, depressed, divorced single mother simultaneously writing a novel while studying. Had her original manuscript rejected by 12 publishers (bet they regret it now!). 

b. As a child he didn’t start speaking until he was four, reading until he was seven, and was thought to be mentally handicapped. He was later expelled from school for his rebellious nature. 

c. Was told he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas" by newspaper editor and started a company Laugh-O-Gram that went bankrupt two years later. 

d. Rejected TWICE by the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.

e. Was told by his teachers he was "too stupid to learn anything" and was fired from his first two jobs for being "non-productive."

There is an important lesson here which is captured in several quotes from these innovators:

  • From Walt Disney: "“I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young… Because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. Because of it I’ve never had any fear in my whole life when we’ve been near collapse and all of that. I’ve never been afraid.”
  • From JK Rowling: "“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

If you're going to teach a lesson about entrepreneurship then you better cover the importance of learning from failure because that's an inevitable part of the journey. We think it's so important that we developed this activity, CREATE: A C.V. of Failure. In this activity, students will identify their academic, extracurricular and personal failures. They will reflect and identify what they learned from them. Creating this mindset of "failures as learning opportunities" is critical to not only entrepreneurial success but also life success too! 


Answers: a: JK Rowling, b: Einstein, c: Disney, d: Spielberg, e: Edison


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About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.